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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: Dreams Variously Classified. Some are God-Sent, as the Dreams of Nebuchadnezzar; Others Simply Products of Nature.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XLVII.—Dreams Variously Classified. Some are God-Sent, as the Dreams of Nebuchadnezzar; Others Simply Products of Nature.

We declare, then, that dreams are inflicted on us mainly by demons, although they sometimes turn out true and favourable to us. When, however, with the deliberate aim after evil, of which we have just spoken, they assume a flattering and captivating style, they show themselves proportionately vain, and deceitful, and obscure, and wanton, and impure. And no wonder that the images partake of the character of the realities. But from God—who has promised, indeed, “to pour out the grace of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh, and has ordained that His servants and His handmaids should see visions as well as utter prophecies” 1773 —must all those visions be regarded as emanating, which may be compared to the actual grace of God, as being honest, holy, prophetic, inspired, instructive, inviting p. 226 to virtue, the bountiful nature of which causes them to overflow even to the profane, since God, with grand impartiality, “sends His showers and sunshine on the just and on the unjust.” 1774 It was, indeed by an inspiration from God that Nebuchadnezzar dreamt his dreams; 1775 and almost the greater part of mankind get their knowledge of God from dreams. Thus it is that, as the mercy of God super-abounds to the heathen, so the temptation of the evil one encounters the saints, from whom he never withdraws his malignant efforts to steal over them as best he may in their very sleep, if unable to assault them when they are awake. The third class of dreams will consist of those which the soul itself apparently creates for itself from an intense application to special circumstances. Now, inasmuch as the soul cannot dream of its own accord (for even Epicharmus is of this opinion), how can it become to itself the cause of any vision? Then must this class of dreams be abandoned to the action of nature, reserving for the soul, even when in the ecstatic condition, the power of enduring whatever incidents befall it? Those, moreover, which evidently proceed neither from God, nor from diabolical inspiration, nor from the soul, being beyond the reach as well of ordinary expectation, usual interpretation, or the possibility of being intelligibly related, will have to be ascribed in a separate category to what is purely and simply the ecstatic state and its peculiar conditions.



Joel iii. 1.


Matt. v. 45.


Dan. ii. 1, etc.

Next: Causes and Circumstances of Dreams. What Best Contributes to Efficient Dreaming.

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